MAIN UDDIN CHISTI, TT, Cooch Behar, March 9: A panchayat pradhan from Cooch Behar district was awarded yesterday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making her area open defecation free (ODF) zone within 30 days.
Shibani Dakua was felicitated with a trophy and a certificate at a programme organised by the Centre in Gujarat's Gandhinagar, where 6,000 women panchayat pradhans were honoured by the Prime Minister for their contribution to Swachh Bharat Mission.
Shibani, the pradhan of Salbari I panchayat, had formed groups of men and women in December last year and started awareness campaigns against open defecation in all 13 villages in the panchayat and resorted to "Gandhigiri" during her field visits.
"People going out in fields and bushes for defecation were intercepted and we greeted them with roses. We used to pay surprise visits during early morning hours, right from the fields to the banks of rivers and ponds. Initially, there was some negative repercussions among people but within a couple of weeks, our efforts started bearing fruit," the sole Trinamul panchayat representative from Bengal to receive the honour said.
Dakua decided to start the defecation-free campaign after she came to know about it from the district magistrate, government functionaries and panchayat representatives.
Mathis Lepcha, the block development officer of Tufanganj II block, while elaborating on the campaign, said: "A resource group was formed in the district under Mission Nirmal Bangla. Also, similar groups were formed at block levels. In our block, the group trained self-help groups, religious representatives, teachers, panchayat members and pradhans on how to make a village defecation-free area."
Pushpita Roy Dakua, the sabhadhipati of Cooch Behar zilla parishad, said Shibani's consistent campaigns had changed the mindset of people and they built toilets at their homes. "The Salbari I panchayat, which has a population of 17,804, has turned into an defecation-free area and each household has a toilet now."
Today, Shibani returned from Gujarat and was felicitated by panchayat members.